Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Closed for the Summer

I've been so busy setting up the Juniper and Rose Kitchen Garden School this year I've hardly paused for breath. Looking back over the year so far I'm really pleased how far things have come. The garden has provided all the herbs, salads, flowers and fruit I've needed for the school,  the extra's I've relied on my local Green Grocer and my local butcher, Sauls of Spratton, and I've sourced as much produce as possible directly from my local flour millers and farmers.  If there has been a fairtrade option on any of the ingredients we use then we've chosen Fairtrade and we've had lots of students through the doors learning to bake sourdough bread, make jam, create their own artisan cheeses and bake...all whilst using ethical and sustainable ingredients. 

Now after what seems like an eternity of rain and cold there is some sun shine.  It's glorious, and I've time to stop and really think about where we are and everything else that needs to be done.  The builders are in full swing, turning the two bedrooms in the coach house into bed and breakfast and we'll have guest bedrooms ready for students in September. 

Early Autumn will see the How to Keep Chickens course ready to run again and as chickens have laid all the eggs we've used as well as  successfully hatching out two small clutches of Lavender Pekins, we'll some spare Pekins for sale. 

I've started learning about bee keeping on Sunday morning.  A wild honey bee colony have moved in above the sitting room. We'll move them into a hive and hopefully have our own honey next year too.  

If you go to France of Italy in the summer months you will see that the French and the Italians have no problem shutting up shop, whilst for some reason we English seem to plough on despite that fact that half the country is on holiday and the other half are just too hot to be bothered to do anything. 

I know I'm working on new projects over the next couple of months, but for now the Mediterranean in me wins as the summer holidays are upon us.  My children are growing up so fast and these next six weeks are precious days.  Sometimes you just have to forget technology, switch the computer off, abandon the housework and enjoy the sunshine, so we are closed for the summer. 

See you all in September. 

Thursday, 4 July 2013


I made cheese today; a lemon and mint soft cheese with poppy seeds and lime.

It was made with local buffalo milk and organic lemons, which is all very well .. but really I made cheese as a distraction.  

I was distracting myself from feeling naughty.  Do you remember that feeling.  Mischief.. .. it's the kind of feeling that as a child would make me rope my brother into going scrumping or play cherry knocking in the village, or dare him to climb a tree that I knew was far too big for him to climb down from.  It's the kind of feeling that only goes away when you do something you shouldn't and just get away with it by a whisker. 

I used to love the thrill of climbing over the neighbour’s fence, sneaking up under an apple tree, and  picking the most tempting apple I could see.  Of course my brother and I would then run.  Really run.  Perhaps it was the running that gave me the thrill.  I was always convinced that we’d be caught.  We’d have to find a spot to eat our warm slightly acidic, under ripe  apples, and we'd laugh and laugh...  more from the sheer pleasure of the deed than anything. 

I'm not sure that we ever got caught  ..  but I do remember those stolen apples being delicious. 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Does Nationalism Mean That We Care Less?

 This little girl lives in The Rwenzori Mountains.  I wonder though .. would you feel differently about this little girl if she lived next door to you? 
When I did my degree many years ago my dissertation was on decision making.  I studied psychology of human communication and I brought together two theories from Cox and Ash on attribution.  What  the study revealed was that one defining element would affect your entire perception about a person or product.

The words were called key influencing words and they had the ability to influence attributes a person would give to a person or a product, and therefore affect the way you feel about that person or product.   I proved in my paper that the two theories were the same process.  This ability to attribute qualities is a key factor in our decision making and affects the way we feel and react to the world around us. . Why am I telling you this?  Because I believe that your reaction to the picture of this child would be very different depending on one key influencing word. 

I'm the first person to advocate being proud to be British. I believe that we are one of the fairest most tolerance countries to live in the world.  I also accept that as a rule most people don't think about the people who grew their food, but I really struggle with the "them attitude." Three times in the past month when the subject of  either child labour or Fairtrade has come up I have heard separating phrases about other people, in other counties and one woman used the phrase "those people." Whilst I hold a British passport I am not defined by being British, and I've come to the conclusion that the absolute definition of ourselves geographical and political borders is at the heart of many people's couldn't give a dam attitude. 

The excuse one woman gave to me with this attitude is that we have poverty in Britain.  I do accept that we have poverty here, but when I enquired what she did for British families in poverty it turned out that this phrase was simply thrown out as a free pass to do nothing at all for anyone.   

For me there is no them.  There is no us.  Our identities in this day and age transcend borders.  We are humanity.  There is just the world and nothing conveys this concept better than food.  With advances in communication our world is really just a global village, and yet there is still hunger, poverty, injustice and abuse. Statistics from the ILO estimates that around 215 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 work, sixty per cent of whom are employed in the agricultural sector .. in other words the food sector. 

Nothing conveys our dependence on each other more then food. From kick starting our day with a cup of coffee, to throwing a banana in the children’s lunch box or treating ourselves to a bar of chocolate most of us, in a normal day, can circle the world three times over without a second thought. 

So I wonder would it mean more to you if the people growing, harvesting and processing your food who lived in extreme poverty were British?  Would you be more outraged if local children missed out their education to pick the cocoa beans for the chocolate that you enjoy? Would a fair wage for the workers picking your tea mean more to you if people who picked were from your town? Would it matter to you more if the pineapple growers that lived next door to you were using pesticide that are banned in the European Union and forbidden in the United States? 

I'm not suggesting that people give up or denounce their national identity to save the world, but I am suggesting that by changing our definition of identity and accepting that we are all one world then perhaps we might consider our everyday decisions in a different light.

Do you think that your geographical identity affects the way you feel about people?